How to Get a DBA in Illinois | Register an Illinois Assumed Name

If you’re starting a business in Illinois and plan to operate under a name that’s different from your legal business name, you’ll need to file for an Illinois DBA (“doing business as”) name. In Illinois, DBAs are formally referred to as an “Assumed Name”. In this guide, we’ll go over what an Illinois Assumed Name is, who’s required to get one, and the step-by-step process to file for your Assumed Name.

Important Note: It’s a common misconception that a DBA is a type of business structure. However, this is not accurate – A DBA (Assumed Name) is simply a registration to use a name different from your legal business name. Since an Assumed Name is not a separate legal entity, it does not provide limited liability protection for business owners or taxation flexibility, as an LLC does. If you want to know more about the differences between the two, visit our DBA vs LLC guide to learn more.

What is an Illinois DBA?

DBA is an acronym for “Doing Business As” and refers to a filing that allows a business to operate under a different name from its legal name. Assumed Names are used by all types of businesses in Illinois but are most commonly used by sole proprietorships and partnerships.

Sole proprietorships and partnerships are informal business structures that don’t require legal formation paperwork to get started. As a result, their legal names are either their personal name (for sole proprietors) or must include the partners’ last names (for partnerships). As a result, most sole proprietors and partnerships opt to file an Illinois Assumed Name so that they can use a more credible and brandable business name.

A Illinois LLC or Corporation also can find a Assumed Name useful to brand and differentiate their products, services, and divisions.

Who’s Required to Get an Illinois DBA (Assumed Name)?

Any business that will operate under any name that is different from their legal name must file for an Illinois Assumed Name.

How to File a DBA (Assumed Name) in Illinois

The first step is to develop a business name that is unique, memorable, and easy to find in a web search. For some helpful hints and guidance on making sure your DBA name is as good as it can be, check out our useful guide, How to Come Up with a Business Name.

Once you have determined what you’d like to use as your business name, follow these steps to complete your Illinois Assumed Name filing.

Step 1: Conduct a Business Name Availability Search

To get an Illinois Assumed Name, you want to start with a business name availability search. To increase the likelihood that your Assumed Name application will be accepted, you will need to ensure that no other business uses the Assumed Name that you wish to use and that your business name is unique.

Why Having a Unique Assumed Name is Important

Your business name is the foundation of your strategic marketing strategy. Choosing a name similar to other businesses can get you lost in the white noise of competition. One massive benefit of an Illinois Assumed Name is that it provides you the one chance to break away from the pack.

Without the unique Assumed Name, you could be handicapping the best marketing and sales efforts to get your name out there. Worse yet, you could be sending business to others using a similar name.

To recap, we suggest that you do an extensive search to ensure the following:

  • The Assumed Name is not currently in use nor too similar to other businesses
  • The business name has never been used previously

Note: If the business name is available and has been used before, it is probably not all that unique. Also, the fact that the name is no longer in use could imply a lack of success on the part of the previous owners.

Searches to Complete

  • Search the Illinois Online Database:
    Verify that your desired Illinois Assumed Name is available to register and is not currently used by an existing business. You can complete this by using the New York Department of State Business Search tool.

  • Check the US Patent and Trademark (USPTO) System:
    Once you have verified that your name is available for registration, you’ll also want to ensure that the name is not trademarked. Since the trademark process is at the federal level, it supersedes any level registrations. You can search USPTO Trademark database here.

  • Website Domain Search:
    You will also want to complete a domain name search to check if the .com version of your business name is available. If you don’t plan to create a business website, you should still consider registering the domain name to prevent others from using it. Since you can register a new .com domain for less than $10 with namecheap, it can serve as a very cheap form of insurance against someone using the domain.

Step 2: File and Register the Illinois DBA (Assumed Name)

Once you have completed all the required name availability searches and confirmed that your name can be used, it’s time to complete your Assumed Name registration. The filing process varies slightly depending on the legal structure of the business. If your business is legally formed as an LLC or Corporation in Illinois, you will file your Assumed Business Name Application with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. If you operate as a sole proprietorship or general partnership, your DBA (Assumed Name) will be filed at the local level with the county clerk’s office in the county(s) where your business conducts business.

Information to complete an Illinois Assumed Name Filing

To complete your Assumed Name, you’ll need the following information:

  • Your desired Assumed Name
  • Name of the business owner, which can be a person or a legal entity
  • Date when you started or formed your business
  • Description of the nature of your business, including services and value
  • A signature of a notary to authenticate the registration

How to Apply as a Sole Proprietor or General Partnership

If you have not formed your business as an LLC or Corporation you will need to submit your Assumed Business Name Application with your local county clerk’s office. To get started, contact your local county clerk or visit their website to obtain their application (each county has its own application). For a full list of the county clerks in Illinois visit the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Records website.

Prior to submitting your application Illinois law requires that you publish a legal notice of the name in an approved publication or newspaper. The county clerk’s office can provide a list of approved publications. Your notice will need to be published once a week for three consecutive weeks to comply with the Illinois publishing requirement. Once your notice runs, the newspaper should provide an affidavit or Certificate of Publication and a copy of the ad. You can now take the certificate of publication and completed application form and submit it in-person at your county clerk’s office.

How to Apply as an LLC or Corporation

If your business is formed as an LLC or Corporation you can file online on the Illinois Secretary of State website, Cyber Drive Illinois. Use the links below to visit the corresponding page for each entity type: